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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Some guidelines of Gift Giving

During a recent discussion with parents, we discussed how to communicate our expectations to family and guests over the holidays. The conversation turned to the expectations around gift giving.

Here are some examples that we discussed.

We attach unspoken expectations to our gift giving. We want to please others and sometimes we expect a person to act a particular way when receiving the gift.

Discussing what we want and need is important and if we think we are doing well with it, we need to do better.

Ask a person if there will be a gift exchange or if there is some way you can spend time together. It eliminates the awkwardness when one person gives a gift and the other does not. If that happens, fall back on the agreement you made to one another and discuss how it is awkward for you.

Gift giving can be unequal. If you give a $20.00 gift to someone and they give you a $60.00 gift, there is an imbalance that can be awkward. Money often determines the value we place of the relationship.

If there is gift-exchange, ask a person what he or she wants and ask the person to be precise. It helps you get them what they expect. There is still variation that can be given in the gift, but you want to be able to hit the mark.

Check out the expectations after your agreement. Those uncommunicated expectations can be hurtful. One man asked his wife what she wanted for her 50th birthday. His wife was adamant that there be no party, no surprise, and no gift. That is what he gave her, but she was devastated that he did not honor her on her 50th birthday. These are sensitive areas.

Everybody wants the holidays to be enjoyable, but we have different ideas about what is fun. Talk and plan with the family about those things that each person would like to do. Negotiate. Compromise. Discuss. Often, most families want to spend time with each other. Decide how and when you will do that and discuss it early so that children and others do not make alternate plans because they do not know your intended schedule or expectations.

If children are returning from school or or a limited visit, decided early when and how you will spend time together. Ask them to reserve time for the family. Then they can schedule time with their friends. People want to know the ritual expectations.

Examine your traditions. Why are you doing them? Are there new ones you want to begin? Talk about what would be meaningful and enjoyable for each person. Christmas is about spending time with each other. Be mindful that this is the reason people are visiting. They want to spend time with you. Give them family time and private time. Arrange a brunch with each child separately so you can maximize the opportunities to be with family.

A suggestion is to try gift-giving a little differently. We think of Christmas as being for the children, but the children need to see the primary relationship in the household, which is the parent-to-parent relationship. Because the parents love one another and chose each other as lifelong friend, this is the primary relationship. Because of their love, they have children, but the adult-to-adult relationship is the most important one. Try this out. Let the children see how the husband and wife exchange gifts first. Then the children can open their gifts.

Also, we can manage the gift-opening well. When a person receives a gift, perhaps the one who gives it to them, even if it is from Santa (parent), hand the gift to the person so that they know another person is involved in the exchange. Perhaps, even a little explanation can be given so the person understands the reason he or she received the gift. The person then has to acknowledge the gift-giver and convey thanks.

Parents need to talk about an estimated budget for the gifts merely as a guideline. When a person knows the expectations, they can purchase mindfully.

Parents can purchase a limited number of gifts: one for a need, another for a want, a third for something fun, and a fourth for a surprise. Additional gifts are not needed.

Give time as a gift. Instead of a physical gift, invite family to a concert or theater, schedule breakfast with a person, go to an art museum, a light display, a Holiday Open House,  or take part in some fun activity. People will value that you are giving them your time. Your presence to them will let them know they are secure with you and that you care for them. It is more precious than a funny decoration that you think is appropriate for them. The incarnation is about choosing to be with those whom you love.

To be continued...

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